Good Friday. Nuff’ said.
I don’t have much time to write today, just enough to say every Palm Sunday Mass I have ever attended has always been rich in connotation and spiritual significance. It is only one of two days throughout the year (the other being Good Friday) that we hear the Gospel readings of the Crucifixion. Lent is now over and Holy Week begins. This Lent has been mostly good, with a few ups and downs and the usual struggles. Still, I must continue on the journey.
There is one more week until Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Lent is almost over. In two weeks it will be Easter. So far, this has been a Lent of great spiritual rewards and depth for me. God is truly great and loving. Unfortunately time is short for tonight so I don’t have a whole lot of time right now. I want to write more on all these things soon.
Blogging has been sparse of late. I am wondering about this whole blogging world at the moment. With eighty million blogs out there, what is the purpose of one more, such as mine? Plus the whole internet thing can be a bit strange at times. Why do I even feel the need to use a fake name for my writings? These are things I need to think about.
As far as faith, it continues to deepen for me. Perhaps the time has come for me to update this blog once again and become more open about things. I am not sure yet.
As I continue on my spiritual journey I feel the love of Christ deepening within me. The last week was a busy one so I did not have time to blog much. However, I will be resuming more posts this week. This Sunday was Laetare Sunday in the Church. Laetare is the Latin imperative meaning, “rejoice”. So today we take a slight break from our Lenten penances, fastings, and whatnot, to rejoice and remember that this is ultimately all about the resurrection of Christ. In only three weeks Easter will be upon us. Time truly does fly.
Two weeks ago I went to confession. I cannot begin to say how much that helped me in my struggles and walk with the Lord. Everyday I thank God for the Church and for the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist.
One of the things I want to write on is the horrible industry of porn. I have been reading much on it recently. As a man I know all too well the insidious nature of pornography. I don’t have time to write about that tonight, but it is something that I want to write on in the near future. Also, in the earlier incarnation of this blog, I was bit more skeptical about certain issue regarding sexuality. Since then I have changed, or gone back to a previous way of thinking. I know now that the Church is correct when it comes to matters of sexuality. As difficult as some of the teachings are, I agree with them. We are complicated creatures but I have learned now, throughout my life and from much suffering and pain, that sex before marriage is not healthy, does not lead to happiness, and is sinful. Some of my earlier posts on this topic I have removed, since I was advocating that sex outside of marriage was basically ok. Again, I do not believe that to be case any longer. It is a long story and one I will tell it in the near future.
But on a lighter note: this was again a beautiful Sunday! Spring is now approaching. This morning I saw a few geese wandering around where I live. In the early mornings the growing chorus of birds is noticeable. Sometimes the beauty of God’s creation is truly overwhelming.
Once again I need to write about the joys of leading a simple life based in faith in God. Sundays are a good day for this. As I was heading to Church this morning I thought of the difference of one life compared to another. In one life of mine, a former life, I might spend a Sunday morning waking up with a woman in bed and missing Mass. I always disliked that, since attending Church on a weekly basis has been a part of my entire adult life. Whenever I missed Mass because I was living in sexual excess, I always felt like I was missing something very important and for reasons that were very wrong. It gave me a sense of being slightly cut off, if not very distant, from God and even myself. Now whatever woman I awoke with on whatever morning at whatever time in my past is long gone, nothing more now than a distant memory. I have many memories like that. If you accumulate enough of them, after a while they begin to become rather melancholic. Unhappiness was always the ultimate result of such behavior, eventually, when all the thrills of the sexual conquest eventually wore off.
But Faith, the Church and God always were, are still, and will always be there. They are not going to tell you someday that you are not good enough, that they need to find themselves, that they need to experience other people at the expense of you. Nor will they disappear at my own weaknesses and shortcomings. God will not go away even when I want him to go away. I have left many a woman as well as been left myself. Even when I was away, the Church was there, Christ was there. I thought this morning how the Church does not go away, how God does not go away, even when I stray. There is a strength, a stability, a joy and a peace in all that which is far superior to whatever pleasures I may have immersed myself in the past. All those pleasures were nothing more than fleeting; but God is truly like a rock that is there forever. Choosing God makes so much more sense and has so many more rewards.
A life willfully lived in sin and a life fully lived in faith are truly two different things and the latter is far, far better.
One thing that I have learned in my life is that you cannot separate body and soul. For a some time now I have been trying to lead a different sort of life than the one I had lead for the previous year. And what have I discovered? That this new life is actually better than the previous one.
I had many wounds from the last year. When people come in and out of your life, when you exchange intimacies with this person and that person, it eventually effects your mind, body and soul. What is the point of it all? Where is the love? Yes, there is passion, yes, there is even intimacy, and of course there is much pleasure, but there is no love. In the end you are left with nothing except the memories. And even those can be a torturous because eventually you are going to desire to recapture those in some form or another. The game of seduction gets wearisome after a while. It is better to wait, to seek out love, to hope that God will provide, or that at least what is going on your life is guided by his will, that everything is for a purpose. Desires of course are still there, but desires are tempered, even improved, when rarified through faith.
And all those wounds that I caused by my behavior have begun to heal through God. The mystery of Christ’s sufferings and how we are healed through that is nicely expressed in 1 Peter 2:24:
By his wounds you were healed.
Yes, it is true.
I have always enjoyed Renaissance art, especially the three great masters of the High Renaissance: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. This is a nice piece by Raphael depicting the Transfiguration of Christ, which is celebrated today in the Catholic Church on this second sunday of Lent.
The depiction is not completely accurate. For instance, there was not a crowd of people present witnessing this event, nor was Jesus raised off the ground. Rather, depending on the slightly different account of which Gospel you chose to read, he went up to a mountain to pray and there, in the presence of the Peter, James and John, his face became radiant as the sun and his clothes dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and began conversing with him. Then God spoke through the clouds and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.”
But Raphael was an artist and is not trying to be scientifically accurate. Rather, he is depicting the spiritual dimensions and meanings of the event more than anything else.
Once again, as I was attending Mass this morning, I was thankful that the Church was there. How much better life is when lead with a certain degree of integrity. After so much promiscuity in my own life, after so much chaos and pain and suffering, after being in so many situations that were ultimately empty and even detrimental to my all around well being, I am happy to have found, once again, the peace and love and joy of Christ. The sexual pleasures I once sought so ardently are nothing, nothing compared to the presence of God in my life. It is truly an amazing thing to experience, as I am sure Peter, James and John were amazed when they saw divinity briefly make itself manifest in a most spectacular and concrete way through the Transfiguration.
“Listen to Him.” I know that when I listen to Him my life is infinitely better.
Sundays are a great time. I sometimes contrast my present joys at Sunday Mass with how for so long my life was disordered. My difficulties usually revolved around pursuing sexual pleasure in different forms. During those times when I was sleeping with someone and would miss Mass, I would feel a great loss and emptiness on Sundays. This did not happen too much. Usually, even in my most wayward times, I would manage to make it to Mass on Sundays. In order to attend Mass though I needed to justify my behaviors. I think my justification would go something like this: although the Church may be right and I may be wrong, I am not quite at the point where I am willing to accept everything without compromise. After all, I enjoy sex, so why should I give it up? Isn’t it more healthy to be in a relationship, even if it s sexual, than to deny myself that? Don’t I run the risk of becoming neurotic or something even worse? I was able to justify much of my behavior with such thoughts. Still, in the deepest part of my mind and soul and heart, I always knew what I was doing was wrong, sinful and keeping me detached from the love and graces of God. It is amazing how much we can justify in our minds in order to get the things we want, no matter how destructive they may be.
Now this was not always my state. Much time, even years, would pass without me being involved with anyone. I would live a life of prayer and closeness with God. I was greatly happy too. But then there were times of frenetic sexual activity in other parts of my life. I find though as I got older the cycles of sexual activity followed by repentance would become longer and longer. In other words, the crazed sexual life I might lead would become shorter and shorter and the periods of calm and peace and closeness with God would become longer and longer. Now I am at the point, after so many difficult experiences, after so much pain and suffering, after feeling so distant from God one too many times, that I really do not want to feel those types of things ever again. The fleeting pleasures of sex, even sexual conquest, cannot compare in any way to the sense of love and peace that comes from a closeness with God. And the transitory pleasures of sex pale in comparison to the sufferings that often follow bad decisions in that realm. My sufferings were the results of choices I made, in my free will. One of my favorite passages from the Psalms, Psalm 38, states:
My wounds are foul and festering,
the results of my own folly.
How true for me. But God can heal those wounds.
Love is the important thing in life. This past year I had two relationships with two women. I loved one. The other I did not. The second was a more sexual relationship and ultimately more destructive and corrosive to my soul than the first. Although I loved the first, still, the pain when it was over was only deepened by the memories of our sexual intimacy. I don’t think the first was as bad as the second, but it obviously, from a Christian ethical view, was not a good thing either. Now we are complicated creatures and we do things for all sorts of different reasons, but as I get older I am realizing slowly and painfully that the Church is more right than wrong when it comes to matters of human sexuality. Will I ever sleep with a woman outside of marriage again? I hope not, and my resolve is not too. Of course if I were in certain situations with a woman I really don’t know how I might respond. This is why I will now only date or be involved with nice Catholic girls! Although no one is perfect, it does make things a bit easier and clearer.
But back to love: Sundays are about love. The resurrection is about the love of God. Without the resurrection nothing in Christianity can make sense. And with God’s love comes Hope. My own Lenten resolution this year is never to fall back into the darkness that plagued me this past year or in past years and to guide my life in the future following the light and love of Christ. Trusting in God to help me with that gives me tremendous Hope.
I think during Lent I might post some great works of religious art. Or at least post the works that I find to be appealing. Today’s piece, to start out Lent, is a favorite of mine: the Crucifixion by Fra Angelico. I have posted one of his pieces before. Although we are six weeks away from Good Friday, it is good to remember what all of Lent is leading up to: the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. So I think this is a good piece to start out with. What I enjoy most about it is its powerful simplicity. The robed man at the foot of the Cross is St. Dominic. Of course he was not there at the crucifixion itself, but the symbolism of kneeling at the foot of the Cross is powerful. I often think of this image as I go through different struggles in life and how really, in the end, I am nothing more but a poor penitent seeking God’s love and mercy.
My internet has been doing strange things lately making it difficult for me to blog. Hopefully the problem will get solved soon. Despite all its glory, technology can be a real pain too. Once you get used to having something as spectacular as the internet, doing without seem particularly painful.
So now Lent is upon us. For those of you non-Catholics out there, Lent is a period of forty days of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, or just penance in general, leading up to Easter. Some years I would take it more seriously than others. I think this year I will take it a bit more seriously. The custom now a days is to give up something for Lent. Usually I give up something like chocolate or sweets in general. One year I fasted for the whole period, but that can be rather difficult to do. Another year I tried to give up looking at beautiful women but that did not last too long. So now I try to abstain from things that seem more moderate and reasonable. After all, since beautiful women are I believe part of God’s creation I don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying that. For instance, last night at the Ash Wednesday services at my Church I could not help but notice the large number of younger, attractive females in attendance. I live in a university town so this may be considered odd or not odd, depending on your perspective. It was encouraging though, since it showed that there are a lot of younger people who do believe in certain things. I am sure many of them are learning about life right now so they may not be saints, but just the fact that they attend services shows some belief system other than beers and blowjobs that seem to be so common among college students today.
I have been doing some reading on the dating scene in today’s younger generation. It seems like such a sad thing sometimes. Now many of the same problems were there when I was younger, but I think the advance of technology has made things a bit more difficult for people today. I can understand the male plight over women today. The old rules are mostly gone. Men must now compete with women in different areas of life. The idea of finding a virgin to marry is almost non existent. And the allure of bedding as many women as possible now, due to sexual freedom, is almost impossible for most men to resist. I know because I have been dealing with these things for my whole life. To make matters worse, the younger generation, lets say those in their twenties, have been raised on a diet of internet porn, the Madonna/Brittany/MTV transformation of acceptable feminine standards, and a governmental/educational system which promotes gender equality to an almost absurd degree in almost all areas of life.
As a man I can understand the anger, frustration, even bitterness so many guys feel today about the overall situation. The rise of Game is a reaction to all this. There is a lot of confusion too because while we all want to find that nice, virginal girl, we also enjoy the unlimited sexual opportunities that seem to be out there too. So in the end, both men and women today participate in their own demise and confusion in so many ways.
What I have found is that having some spiritual base helps me get through all these things. Religions are far from perfect, but they are the last refuge of traditional standards and behaviors. And it does not matter what a person’s past is, we all have pasts, the important thing is where we are today in life. The secret thing about religion is that, for all those gamers out there secretly looking for that nice girl to marry, you are more likely to find her at a church or synagogue or some other similar place than at a bar, night club, or some such venue. Of course nice girls are found outside of religious venues as well, but you chances are better if you belong to a church or something similar.
And as I have said before, nice girls are hot.